SEC Championship Game: Alabama vs. Georgia

Published on Dec. 1, 2012, at 12:05 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

We already know Notre Dame will play in Miami at the BCS Championship Game. What we don’t know but will figure out today is who the Fighting Irish will face at Dolphins Stadium.

Alabama and Georgia will clash this afternoon in a de-facto national semifinal contest at the Ga. Dome in Atlanta. Most betting shops have the Crimson Tide installed as a 7 ½-point favorite with a total of 50 ½. Gamblers can take the Bulldogs to win outright for a plus-275 payout (risk $100 to win $275).

Alabama (11-1 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) has won back-to-back games by identical 49-0 scores since losing to Texas A&M. Nick Saban’s squad sent Gene Chizik to Pink Slip-ville with the most lopsided victory over Auburn since the 1948 Iron Bowl.

Alabama delivered its third shutout of the season and easily covered the number as a 34-point home favorite. A.J. McCarron torched the Tigers for 216 passing yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Eddie Lacy rushed for 131 yards and a pair of scores.

For the season, McCarron has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,507 yards with a 25/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, the junior quarterback won’t have one of his favorite targets this week. Kenny Bell, the starting junior wide receiver, is ‘out’ with a leg injury. Bell has 17 receptions for 431 yards and TDs.

Due to Bell’s injury, Alabama has decided to take the redshirt off of freshman WR Chris Black, who sustained a shoulder injury back in August. According to Saban, Black was the catalyst in the decision. He is healthy and expected to get plenty of playing time

The Alabama offense features a pair of explosive running back in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Lacy has rushed for 1,007 yards and 14 TDs, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Yeldon has rushed for 847 yards and 10 scores with a 6.6 YPC average. His touchdown catch on a screen pass was the game-winning score in a come-from-behind win at LSU.

Alabama leads the country in total defense and scoring defense, allowing only 9.2 points per game. You have to give the ‘Bama defensive line a considerable edge in the matchup with UGA’s offensive line.

Georgia (11-1 SU, 6-6 ATS) has won six in a row since getting blasted 35-7 at South Carolina on Oct. 6. Mark Richt’s team has covered the spread at a 4-1 ATS clip the last five times out, including last Saturday’s 42-10 win over Ga. Tech as a 14 ½-point home favorite.

Aaron Murray completed 14-of-17 throws for 215 yards with two TDs without an interception. Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley ran for two TDs apiece.

The emergence of Marshall and Gurley has made the loss of Isaiah Crowell a long-forgotten strory. The freshmen RBs have combined to rush for 1,858 yards and 22 TDs.

Murray has connected on connected on 67.3 percent of his pass attempts for 3,193 with a 30/7 TD-INT ratio.

This will be the signature moment of Murray’s UGA career. The junior has enjoyed a very solid career but has demonstrated a propensity for failing to perform in the biggest games of his career. In fact, Georgia has lost 10 of 11 games against Top 25 foes with Murray as its starting signal caller.

UGA has won three of last four head-to-head meetings with ‘Bama both SU and ATS, but these schools haven’t met since 2008. On that night, Alabama enjoyed its first true ‘statement-game victory’ of Saban’s tenure that has already netted a pair of national championship with another currently in reach.

With the UGA fans wearing all black, Alabama raced out to a 31-0 halftime lead and hung on for a 41-30 victory as a 6 ½-point underdog in Athens. In Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa, Matthew Stafford threw a game-winning TD pass in overtime to lift the Dawgs to a 26-23 win.

The ‘under’ has hit in six consecutive UGA games after the Dawgs saw five straight ‘overs’ to open the season. Total have been an overall wash in Alabama games (5-5-1). The Tide has had four games with totals in the 50s. The ‘under’ is 3-1 in those games.

CBS will have the telecast at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–This is the first time Alabama has faced a conference rival not named Florida in the SEC Championship Game. The Tide and Gators have hooked up to settle the league six times. Four of those games were at the Ga. Dome in Atlanta and two were at Legion Field in Birmingham in 1992 and ’93.

–The ‘over’ is 6-1 in the last seven head-to-head meetings between Alabama and Georgia dating back to 1985. I found it interesting, however, that the total was 32 in the ’85 encounter in Athens.

–Georgia hasn’t won an SEC title since 2005. The Dawgs lost to LSU in last year’s title game, allowing 42 unanswered points after leading 10-0 late in the second quarter.

–FSU has gone 3-7 ATS in 10 games as a double-digit favorite this year. The Seminoles take on Ga. Tech tonight in the ACC Championship in Charlotte. As of early this morning, most books had the ‘Noles as 14-point favorites.

–Stanford survived a game effort from UCLA by rallying for a 27-24 win in the Pac-12 title game last night. The Bruins took the cash as nine-point underdogs, but money-line backers came up empty in attempt to cash plus-300 tickets (risk $100 to win $300). A bad snap appeared to be the cause of a potential game-tying field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn in the final minute.

–UCLA freshman quarterback Brett Hundley didn’t get much help from his teammates in the final drive. Three incomplete passes were very catch-able balls.

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